JesuitThe Society of Jesus is a Roman Catholic order which was founded in 1534 by the Spaniard Saint Ignatius Loyola (1491 - 1556), a former soldier. The original aim was to reconquer Jerusalem from the infidels, but members of the society, popularly known as Jesuits, later bound themselves to go as missionaries wherever the pope might send them. They took part in the conquests of America and Japan, and for much of the time were greatly distrusted by other orders. This distrust spread also to European courts where Jesuits were highly influential on account of their ultramontane loyalties and irregular methods. The society was dissolved in the 18th century but later reformed.
Saint Ignatius was the author of the 'Spiritual Exercises', which recommended meditation on death, and enjoined contemplation of a skull.
The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London WC2N 5DN